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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Relive every moment in Arizona’s historic women’s soccer season

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The Arizona women’s soccer team celebrates after the first goal of their win against Oregon State at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 25. The Wildcats finished 6-4-1 in Pac-12 Conference play and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in program history.

The Arizona women’s soccer team lost to Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, and while the season has come to a close, it was arguably the best year in program history.

Here’s how it all unfolded.

The Wildcats opened the season with wins against Abilene Christian and Santa Clara. The win over Santa Clara, a perennial top team, quickly let the nation know Arizona had potential.

“Any time you start a new year and teams are unsure of the progress you’re making, a result like this will go a long way,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said after that game.

Injuries temporarily dampened the team’s enthusiasm, however. Lexe Selman suffered a season-ending knee injury, while Cali Crisler was forced to miss several games.

Still, the Wildcats fought through a ravaged midfield. They hit the road to Flagstaff to take on NAU in front of a record-breaking crowd and routed the Lumberjacks 4-0.

The Wildcats slowly started to climb toward the top 25.

Arizona then traveled to Tempe for the Sun Devil Classic and secured the best start in program history at 5-0. The NSCAA Coaches Poll placed them just outside the top 25, but the Wildcats’ ascent was more apparent than ever.

The Wildcats hosted No. 18 Texas Tech and No. 14 Pepperdine in the Arizona Cats Classic with a chance to crack the top 25.

Sheaffer Skadsen scored a last-minute goal to force a draw against the Red Raiders, but the Wildcats were not as fortunate against Pepperdine. They fell behind in the second minute, but unlike the Texas Tech game, were unable to get the equalizer in a match that was cut short due to lightning.

“I’m proud of my team,” Amato said after the loss. “I know we can compete against anyone on any given day and we showed that throughout the two games this weekend.”

Arizona improved to 6-1-1 after a win over UC Riverside and found itself in the top 25 for the first time since 2005.

A second-half goal by Jaden DeGracie against No. 21 Washington was all the Wildcats needed to open Pac-12 Conference play with a victory, as their defense and goalkeeper Rachel Estopare pitched a shutout.

The win pushed the Wildcats to No. 16 with matchups looming against No. 23 California and No. 5 Stanford.

Estopare and the Arizona defense responded with a second straight shutout, and a goal from Hannah Stevens gave the Wildcats a 1-0 win over the Golden Bears.

The Wildcats, seeking what would’ve been one of the most significant wins in program history against powerhouse Stanford, took a 1-0 lead in the first half. An upset appeared to be brewing in Tucson, but Stanford responded to take the lead before the Wildcats forced extra time, where the Cardinal handed Arizona a crushing 3-2 defeat.

Arizona’s players walked off the field in despair after Stanford’s game-winning goal, but for Amato, it was a good sign of where the program was.

“I think it’s changed in the fact that years ago, if you [had] a losing team, they [would] look at that [game] as a [moral] win, but … [our team] was extremely disappointed and [felt] like they lost,” Amato said. “And that tells me about our team more than anything else.”

That said, things started to come unglued for Arizona.

The No. 15 Wildcats traveled to Southern California to take on USC and UCLA, where they were outscored 8-2 and dropped both games.

Arizona found itself at 8-4-1 and near the bottom of the Pac-12 with a 2-3 conference record.

The Wildcats had to bounce back quickly to avoid a four-game losing streak, and grabbed what may have been a season-saving win in a gutsy 1-0 performance against No. 16 Washington State.

The Wildcats found a rhythm and beat both Oregon schools the next weekend to improve to 11-4-1 overall and 5-3 in the Pac-12.

Arizona headed to Colorado and Utah without Stoian and Brascia—who missed four and three games, respectively, with injuries—for what Amato called the “hardest trip in the Pac-12.” The Wildcats came away with a tie and a win.

At 12-4-2 overall and 6-3-1 in conference, only one game remained on the schedule: a battle with rival ASU in Tucson on senior night.

The Wildcats would have liked to send their seniors off on a high note, but were thrashed 4-1.

The seniors wouldn’t walk away with sour tastes in their mouths, though, as Arizona was selected to host a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history.

Arizona opened against Northern Colorado and redeemed itself with goals from Skadsen and Jessica Nelson to advance to the second round, where Santa Clara awaited a rematch.

The Wildcats were up to the challenge and beat the Broncos again behind two goals from Hannah Wong.

Another matchup with Stanford awaited the Wildcats in what was the second Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history.

The Cardinal scored first and never looked back, cruising to a 3-0 win and effectively ending Arizona’s season.

The Wildcats won 14 games, finished above .500 in the Pac-12 for the first time in 11 years, made it to the Sweet Sixteen and most importantly, raised the bar for Arizona soccer.

“The standard now, is making a run in the NCAA Tournament,” Amato said.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.


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